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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7907


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (3:04 PM) —On 4 December, Senator Bartlett asked me a question regarding Abu Qussey. I undertook to get back to the Senate with further information. I table that information and seek leave to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Earlier this year the Commissioner of AFP, Mr Keelty informed the Senate Committee into a certain maritime incident that the AFP was conducting “ongoing investigations in relation to the criminal activities of those responsible for the organisation of the voyage of SIEV X which of course resulted in the death of 353 people. Can the Minister confirm that the AFP was preparing a homicide case against Abu Quassey, the people smuggler widely identified as being responsible for organising the boat known as SIEV X. The Minister may be aware that Abu Quassey is currently imprisoned in Indonesia and is due to be released on 1 January. Has there been or will there be any attempts by the Australian government to ensure charges are laid against Mr Quassey or to request his extradition to Australia.

Supplementary

Can the Minister at least guarantee to the Australian people and the Senate that those investigations are concluded before Mr Quassey is released from jail and able to abscond from justice. In addition, given the positive cooperation that has occurred between AFP and Indonesian authorities to bring those responsible for the mass killings in Bali to justice, can the Minister outline what cooperation has been occurring to ensure that those responsible for the mass killings of those on board the SIEV X are also brought to justice.

Answer:

Abu Quassey is believed to be an Egyptian national who it is alleged has been involved in people smuggling from Indonesia to Australia since early 2000. He was sentenced by the Jakarta Southern District Court on 4 September 2002 to six months imprisonment for offences against Indonesian immigration law. He is due for release on 1 January 2003.

The Australian Government is working with other Governments in the region to seek to apprehend Abu Quassey in relation to his alleged involvement in people smuggling activities and bring him to Australia to face the charges.

As people smuggling is not currently an offence in Indonesia, the dual criminality required for Australia to request his extradition from Indonesia does not currently exist. Australian authorities are continuing to work towards criminalisation of people smuggling in the region and Indonesian authorities have indicated that legislation would be introduced into the Indonesian Parliament this year criminalising people smuggling.

In relation to a potential murder charge in either the Australian or Indonesian jurisdiction, the AFP has not been able to establish the location where SIEV X sank, therefore, it is not possible to establish the relevant jurisdiction for any prosecution relating to the deaths on board.

Four first instance arrest warrants have been sworn in Australia in respect to Quassey for alleged offences relating to organising Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels (SIEVs). The first three warrants for his arrest were sworn on 3 June 2002 and span alleged offences that occurred between February 2000 and August 2001. The latest warrant for his arrest is in relation to his alleged involvement in organising SIEV X in which 353 people died when it sank in October 2001.

The issue of the fourth warrant in Brisbane on Friday last week follows the compilation of a brief of evidence which was submitted to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution. This brief of evidence in relation to SIEV X includes evidence from interviews with survivors of SIEV X in Australia. The strength of the evidence supporting any warrant is a matter for the courts to determine. It is not appropriate for the brief of evidence to be scrutinised by Parliament prior to any legal proceedings and any public discussion could prejudice the investigation. Once an existing warrant is acted upon, the matter becomes sub judice.

The swearing of first instance warrants means an Interpol alert can be issued and it will ensure that the Australian Government can seek to extradite Abu Quassey should circumstances allow.

Australia respects that Indonesia, as a sovereign state, must make its own decision whether or not to investigate any particular matter.